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A red 2023 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114 is shown parked near a motorcycle dealer near me.

The Best Harley-Davidson Motorcycles for New Riders

It’s hard to describe the feeling of chasing the horizon from the saddle of a two-wheeled powerhouse. There’s a certain degree of vulnerability as you’re exposed to the elements, but that vulnerability heightens your experience because you’re fully aware of your surroundings. You recognize the purr of the engine just as readily as you smell the barbeque restaurant down the street getting a jump start on its brisket for tomorrow’s menu. It’s a full sensory experience that draws new riders to the saddle every day.

That incredible experience has somewhat of a learning curve, kickstarted with every search for the best motorcycle dealer near me. That search reveals hundreds of options, but none more eye-catching or capable than the Harley-Davidson lineup. You love the idea of riding a Harley-Davidson road warrior, but where do you start? What bike is the best for beginners and why? Fortunately, Harley-Davidson gives you plenty of options.

The Gateway into the Harley-Davidson Lineup: The Street 500

Every rider is enticed by more power and thrills in the saddle, but this can be overwhelming for new riders. A bike that’s too powerful can be overwhelming as you master throttle control, which is why options like the Harley-Davidson Street 500 are perfect for beginners. Harley-Davidson designed the Street 500 specifically for new riders, equipping the bike with a 494 cc V-Twin engine that shares the same throaty rumble as more powerful models. However, the smaller displacement engine isn’t overpowering, producing 29.5 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to make the lightweight bike agile and easy to maneuver.

With Harley-Davidson discontinuing the Street 500 in 2020, used models are incredible finds and offer outstanding value for new riders. For example, the 2020 Street 500 comes with antilock brakes, a must-have for new riders honing their skills in the saddle. Its relaxed riding position and low seat height of 28.3 inches give you a confident stance and ample control over the 500+ pound cruiser. These fundamentals complement the bike’s signature Harley-Davidson aesthetic, giving new riders a ticket into the Harley-Davidson legacy.

The Next Step Up: The Harley-Davidson Iron 883

New riders with more experience and confidence in the saddle will find the Iron 883 is an excellent step up in the Harley-Davidson family. Making its debut in 2009, the Iron 883 was recently discontinued in 2022. Like the Street 500, though, this can benefit new riders looking for a well-equipped model at a low price. What can you expect from the legendary cruiser?

The Iron 883 was a top seller for years, renowned for its iconic style, easy customization, and affordable price tag. New riders also appreciate its air-cooled 883 cc V-Twin engine, which isn’t overwhelming or overpowering. It delivers 54 lb-ft of torque to make the 564-pound bike agile and easy to maneuver at any speed. Fortunately, the cruiser’s appeal doesn’t stop there.

Although it isn’t the largest or most powerful in the Harley-Davidson lineup, the Iron 883 is a favorite for many reasons. Harley-Davidson makes it accommodating to more riders by lowering its seat height to 25.7 inches. Moreover, the bike’s low stance and forward riding position give you more control in the saddle, making it the perfect middleweight cruiser for riders looking for the classic Harley-Davidson style. Even more impressive is that this entry-level bike delivers the iconic rumble synonymous with a Harley-Davidson powerhouse, giving new riders bragging rights when they join one of America’s greatest motorcycle legacies.

The Pursuit for More Power: The Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight

As you hone your skills in the saddle, you’ll eventually outgrow your first bike and want something that offers more power. We see this progression from the Street 500 to the Iron 883, and then to more capable options like the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight. As a cruiser, the Forty-Eight has a distinct appeal, differentiating itself in the lineup with its fat tires, aggressive stance, and peanut tank that give it a bulldog look. In short, the Forty-Eight is an attention seeker that roars to life with a 1,200 cc air-cooled V-Twin Evolution engine that produces 73 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 RPM.

With massive amounts of low-end torque making the 556-pound bike agile, the Forty-Eight is a powerhouse on wheels and is easily customizable to your riding needs. Harley-Davidson accomplishes this by outfitting the bike with an Emulsion Rear Shock, which has a screw preload adjuster that lets you fine-tune the bike to your riding style and performance needs. Moreover, the bike’s lower seat height of 26.2 inches improves your control, with the forward foot controls reflecting the classic riding position of a Harley-Davidson cruiser.

Another appealing component to the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight is knowing it’s an upgrade that can satisfy your riding needs for thousands of miles. After you hone your skills and master throttle control on an entry-level bike like the Street 500, you can confidently upgrade to a 1,200 cc powerhouse like the Forty-Eight. This genuine Harley-Davidson road warrior has an incredible output that, when respected, can safely exceed your expectations and deliver an unforgettable and engaging experience in the saddle.

The Ultimate Road Warrior: The Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114

Everyone has goals and aspirations, from working toward a promotion to mastering your time in the saddle and graduating to the Harley-Davidson of your dreams. For many beginning riders, that dream bike looks like the Street Bob 114. The iconic Street Bob is renowned throughout the industry for its versatility and endless options for customization. It’s the Harley-Davidson cruiser that dreams are made of, especially if you’re looking to one day chase the horizon with a passenger behind you.

Agile and engaging, the Street Bob 114 rumbles to life as a stripped-down bobber powered by a Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-Twin engine that produces 119 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 RPM. The Street Bob 114 is built on a Softail frame, meaning it’s incredibly responsive and relatively lightweight at 655 pounds on the 2023 model. While a 655-pound bike seems intimidating to many new riders, those with more experience in the saddle recognize how Harley-Davidson designs the motorcycle to offer exceptional control. With a low-slung stance, an upright riding position with a 25.8-inch seat height, and mid-mount foot controls for easy access and comfort, the Street Bob 114 is accommodating.

Beyond its design and power, the Street Bob 114 offers another type of appeal among riders looking to bring their Harley-Davidson dreams to life. Harley-Davidson is renowned for its customizable bikes, and the Street Bob 114 is no different. With an expansive catalog of aftermarket parts and accessories, the stripped-down Street Bob is a blank canvas waiting for its muse. That’s an intriguing thought, and a great incentive to beginner riders as they hone their skills and get one mile closer to a powerhouse like a Street Bob 114 they can truly make their own.

Choosing the Best Bike

As a new rider, buying your first bike is exciting, even thrilling. However, it’s important not to let that excitement lead you to a bike that’s more powerful or larger than you can confidently handle. You want a bike that’s capable, but not overpowering or overwhelming, instilling confidence as you learn how the throttle responds and the beautiful choreography between engaging the clutch, shifting gears, accelerating, and braking. This early confidence sets the stage for your experience in the saddle, and whether you’ll fall in love with chasing the horizon, or become frustrated before you leave the parking lot. Fortunately, beginner bikes like the Harley-Davidson Street 500 offer an outstanding starting point that helps ensure the former rather than the latter. From there, your options are plentiful, with every Harley-Davidson offering distinct appeal as you get comfortable behind the handlebars.